RATE ISSUES WINTER / 2012  

In this issue:
 

ISSN 1844 – 6159

Editor's Notes:

What can we do to have better teachers? Government officials and regulators have been pondering over this question for decades or even centuries, but every time, it seems to me, they ended up giving the same fundamental answer: find better incentives.
Some have thought that the crucial incentive to improve is salaries and bonuses. As a result, they tried hard to raise teachers’ salaries and, occasionally, even succeeded, but they have yet to prove a clear link between better payment and better teaching. When, a few years ago, teachers’ salaries were increased in Romania, performance did not follow suit. Quite on the contrary, it was proved surprisingly low in 2011 and 2012 when our graduation exam, the “bacalaureat” was made more reliable with the help of surveillance cameras. Otherwise, I find it hard to believe that teachers’ salaries are higher in Shanghai than in Los Angeles, considering that, according to PISA tests, students’ performance is significantly higher in the former than in the latter.
Others have thought that teachers’ results and projects should be measured and rewarded accordingly. In Romania, the list of criteria considered for awarding a hefty five-year bonus like “gradatia de merit” includes such things, yet the backwash effect is far from what was intended. Distracted from the natural focus of their activity, their students, teachers now chase empty meaningless projects, many of which look good on paper, but involve hardly anything more than a trip abroad and some paperwork. Furthermore, many of our colleagues feel encouraged to simply neglect most of their students and focus their time and effort on a couple of them, the high-achievers, who can bring home good results in Olympiads and other contests, which translate into points on their grid. Finally, many teachers sign up for lengthy pompous-sounding courses, often run simultaneously through Casa Corpului Didactic, which they attend and graduate on paper rather than in reality. How does all that benefit their students’ progress? Better not ask…
All things considered, we may have to agree that, in their chase for better incentives, officials may be approaching teachers in a superficially materialistic way. Respect, recognition, a cultivation of fundamental values, a better school environment and more teacher support might be the buttons that our leaders should press.

by Ovidiu Aniculăese, Colegiul Naţional "A.T. Laurian", Botoşani

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 My Teaching Philosophy. Directing the Wind vs. Adjusting the Sails
by Luiza Gervescu, "Ion Barbu" Theoretical High School, Bucharest
Keywords: promise, grow up, respect, students, right, why, courage, remember, able to

I promise I will never grow up. We are raised by parents who record our first words and our first steps on treasured tapes and, then, we are educated by teachers who force us to sit down and shut up. Respect is earned, not forced upon. And students will never learn when they are afraid. Many lack the sufficient maturity to dissociate the subject they are taught from the person who teaches, hence, they will always remember a certain class through the personality of the one behind the teacher’s desk. He/ She must earn the right to be there and this has nothing to do with how qualified he/ she is to do the job…
That’s why…
I promise I will never grow up. We put our own hopes and dreams in the eyes and souls of our children, hoping they will achieve what we have failed in doing. And, then we wonder why they are unhappy and we tell them we suffer for them. We demand them to stay in a country which we failed to improve and we forget that they do stand a chance. It is in our power to open their eyes, to show them the difference between “frail” and “weak” and to provide them with examples of names in favour of or simply for the sake of our argumentation. I truly wonder how many of us can look them in the eye while doing so…
That’s why…
I promise I will never grow up. We live in a consumer-oriented world, where we learn to count our money long before or even instead of saying our ABC’s. I am tired of paying for or getting paid by illiterate monkeys! The students we raise as our children should realize that they need to realize that the price tag never reads the value of things, that the most important things in life are not things and, hence, cannot be bought. But can we really do that when we are all intoxicated with “sales” on everything, as if the only purpose in life were to put aside the cent we earn from the “.99” universe we live in?
That’s why…
I promise I will never grow up. We live in a world of obedient robots who do their jobs and tick their “to do” lists with the pride of being just another wheel in the system. We live in the era when the students’ backpacks are unbearably heavy and we wonder where all those spine problems are coming from… I once had an eight-year-old come up to me asking me, almost in tears, to help her with the backpack. She said she was able to carry it, she just could not gather the physical strength of hoisting it up. I wonder whether it is not the same with the amount of knowledge we force into their brains, in the immeasurable pride that says that ours is the most important subject in their timetable, being invested, basically, with such absolute importance that it deserves undivided attention and respect. It may very well be so, but… remember? Respect is not forced upon, but earned…
That’s why…
I promise I will never grow up. And I want to be thought of and, in time, remembered as one who can/ could teach the others how to do that, too… So that my “kids” would, in turn, be able…
• to stand out... And be so much more than the photocopiers who mechanically reproduce words plagiarized to the infinite from those who, once, had a sparkle of genius and decided to share it, assuming the role of civilizers and not even thinking that, in years, thousands of more or less ignorant would mistake learning with downright stealing…
• To love… Because we receive precisely what we are willing to give. And this not only happens at the level of inter-human relationships, which are the very root of it all, but also at the level of our ability to smile when waking up on a Monday morning. This is the most important barometer of success. We deserve no credit for the money earned by successful parents. And our children must know it and behave accordingly.
• To breathe… Lined-up dreams may die out in the waiting… We should have the courage to earn our oxygen out of all the little things we believe in. Following a crowd will surely defeat the purpose of wanting to be followed by a crowd. We are never inspired by those who choose to be on life support. Teachers are the leading kind. The inspiring breed. Fortunately…
• To open doors… Not all doors which are closed are also locked. At the same time, being able to choose from a bundle of keys has become an art. Teenagers have too many choices ahead of them. It is simply unfair. The labyrinth is too wide and treacherous and they must rely on us to give them the proper hints. In order to be able to do that, we must rise above ground level and guide. They will trust us. We must be worth their trust…
• To cross thresholds of all sorts. Nobody knows what tomorrow brings. But we do know what today holds. We are teachers and, day by day, we talk to our future. Which is shaped according to our expectations, fortunately. Children are highly “mouldable”. It is our incredibly hard task to mould them into somebody-s who will be worth calling “friends”.

This was hardly an X-ray of the world of teachers I believe in. I have been lucky enough to meet plenty of such people, I would be extremely honoured to become one of them, one day… All I obviously have to do is get acquainted with my opportunities, have them work towards my goals and accept support from the youngsters. And, most importantly… never grow up. After all, we cannot direct the wind, but we can clearly adjust the sails…



 

 

 Differentiation. The Art of Positive Discrimination
 

by Cristina Drescan, Liceul Tehnologic “Lucian Blaga”, Reghin

Keywords:
differentiation, learning styles, learning strategies, language instruction, learner autonomy

A fundamental concern has recently been how to meet students’ needs so as to maximize teaching and learning and foster student autonomy. Thus, teaching to different learning styles by employing various learning strategies has been put up on our agenda. For sure, it deserves a much higher priority in the syllabus. Only by providing a wide range of learning strategies that cater for our students’ needs and interests can we aid our students to be effective and independent learners.
Since there is evidence that matching learning styles with instructional techniques significantly affects the learning process (Bedford, as cited in Putintseva, 2006), teachers have to pay particular attention to their students’ various learning styles. A first cornerstone in this attempt could be considered evaluating our students’ cognitive, sensatory, and personality learning styles. In this respect, I have lately administered VAK and MI inventory surveys, assisted by the school psychologist. The results were interpreted and a special list, namely one that showed how many students belonged to the different learning style was included into the school book. Upon careful exploration, all teachers can benefit from this information and tailor their classes according to the findings of the surveys. Unfortunately, nothing has changed so far. Some of my fellow teachers whom I told about the necessity of shaping teaching to students’ learning styles, replied time was too precious for them to foolishly waste it on theories. Similarly, one of my colleagues added, teaching was efficient 20 years ago, in communist times, too, before we started to apply Western ideas on learner-centeredness. However, in one of the classes where the survey had been carried out I delivered a differentiated lesson based on the findings, too, and the students’ feedback is more than positive. All in all, they all agreed that they had achieved more during those two sessions and they also could communicate more.
Another cornerstone is the usage of proper strategies that make learning accessible and permanent. To enhance or increase the depth of knowledge, highly interested and successful language learners, besides being able to choose the appropriate strategies, they also easily explain why they employ them (O'Malley & Chamot, as cited in Oxford, 1994). Therefore, teachers should try out new ways to reach all their students and address their needs. It is the teacher’s responsibility and duty to ensure that students know and can apply various strategies for managing, monitoring, and assessing their own learning. To address this, I decided to devise posters on learning strategies for the classrooms where I teach. Meanwhile, I have finished one on how to learn vocabulary and one on how to write a formal letter. While I was pinning them to the wall, the students gathered around, read the suggestions, and made comments on what they usually do and do not do. In addition, some offered to make similar posters and I suggested topics like how to deliver a speech or how to organize essays.
Learning strategies are employed both consciously and unconsciously. Obviously, so as to bring about maximum positive changes, teachers have to train and make students aware of the strategies used. By now, we are all familiar with styles- and strategies-based instruction, a learner-focused language teaching combining styles and strategy training activities with everyday classroom language instruction (Oxford, 2001). Only by increasing students’ awareness of the most practical and effective strategies can we provide a supportive framework for learner independence on one hand, and language mastery on the other. At this point, I realized that even if I incorporate a large variety of strategies in my teaching, I mostly neglect drawing students’ attention at the importance of usage and advantages of a given strategy. Then, when I first tried to make them aware of the different strategies used during a lesson, I was not persistent. There were tasks where I explained the strategy, often comparing and contrasting it with other ones, and then again tasks where I did not. With regard to this, I have to insist more. Strategy training is not easy and takes time. According to the research, strategy training should be explicit, integrated into normal classwork, and given enough time for students to practise.
In delivering quality teaching, teachers have to be learning facilitators and select learning strategies according to pedagogical judgments. Considering this, Oxford (1994) stated that motivation, cultural background, gender, attitudes and beliefs, type of task, age and L2 stage, tolerance of ambiguity influence the choice of L2 learning strategies. As stated before, cultural background can thoroughly impact on the choice and use of strategies.
In Romania, rote learning is still considered the best way of making students accumulate knowledge and skills. Even if language teachers apply more modern strategies – thanks to the textbooks, too- the students experience mainly rote learning in most of their classes. Thus, it is not that easy at the beginning to pop in with a totally different teaching style. Anyway, it is of uttermost importance to accommodate to students’ learning styles and encourage them to incorporate strategies that sustain L2 acquisition and proficiency. In the differentiated lessons I have newly planned and delivered I mindfully included tasks that addressed sensory learners (e.g. written texts, songs, milling around so as to do the task, writing in collaborative groups). Furthermore, I organized tiered groups that allowed all students to work at their own pace with tasks made more accessible for the different levels. I must admit, that the outcome overwhelmed me.
In conclusion, if we facilitate learning, accept diversity, and offer equal opportunities, our students will deeply benefit from this joint effort. I personally believe that all teachers who are willing to learn, flexible, and persistent can easily assist students in becoming more self-directed. Persistence in differentiation and in fostering learner autonomy will surely pay off.

Reference

Oxford, R. (1994). Language Learning Strategies: An Update. Online Resources: Digests
October 1994
Oxford, R. L. (2001). Language learning styles and strategies. In M. Celce-Murcia (Ed.),
Teaching English as a second or foreign language (3rd ed., pp. 359-366). Boston: Heinle & Heinle/ Thompson International.
Putintseva, T. (2006). The Importance of Learning Styles in ESL/EFL. The Internet TESL
Journal, Vol. XII, No. 3, March 2006. Retrieved from: http://iteslj.org/Articles/Putintseva- LearningStyles.html

 

 

Humanistic Theories of Learning. Learners at the Heart of Teaching

by Cătălina Ecaterina Bălţăteanu, Şcoala Ţuţora, Iaşi

 Keywords: learner-centred teaching, humanistic approach, multiple intelligences theory, the facilitation theory

With the humanistic learning approaches, the learner is even more at the centre of the teaching and learning process, his/her whole person being taken into account. The appearance of such an approach came as a reaction to behaviourism that reduced everything at stimulus-response relationships, but also to the cognitive theories that put emphasis only on the mental processes of the learner. In terms of language teaching, the humanistic theory of learning is associated with methods like the Silent Way, the Community Language Learning and Suggestopaedia.
The main principles of the humanistic approach include the following :
• education should aim at the learner’s personal growth;
• human values and feelings should be taken into account;
• the learner should be engaged both intellectually and emotionally in the learning process;
• stressful situations, behaviours or environments should be avoided;
• learners should actively involve in the learning process;
• learners must be autonomous and responsible for their learning;
• the understanding of others should be promoted;
A new trend within the humanistic approach to language learning is the Multiple Intelligences Theory (MI), proposed in 1983 by Howard Gardner. According to him, intelligence is no more a unique, inborn, but rather a multi-dimensional capacity. In each individual, one or more of the following types of intelligence are more pronounced:
• verbal/linguistic (“word smart)
• logical/mathematical (“number smart”)
• visual/spatial (“picture smart”)
• bodily/kinaesthetic (body smart”)
• musical/rhythmic (“music smart”)
• interpersonal (“people smart”)
• intrapersonal (self smart”)
• naturalistic (“nature smart”)
Verbal intelligence involves the ability to use words and language, to learn new languages, to express in a rhetorical or poetical manner and it seems to characterize the teachers, writers, journalists, lawyers, politicians, translators, and the speakers. Their most developed skills are listening, speaking, writing, story telling, and explaining things. The easiness of learning a foreign language may depend on this type of intelligence. However, that a learner possesses other than a verbal-linguistic intelligence cannot be considered an obstacle to language learning, but it will probably have consequences on the rate of acquisition and the level of proficiency reached in the end.
Those who possess a logical/mathematical intelligence are able to analyze problems in a logical manner, do mathematical operations, and they are interested in numbers, patterns, reasoning deductively, making permanent connections, classifying information, doing experiments, using geometric shapes, and analyzing scientific facts. Scientists, engineers, accountants, mathematicians, researchers develop this type of intelligence.
Individuals with visual/spatial intelligence prefer to see pictures, to visualize the information, to work with charts, maps, pictures, videos, and movies. In general, their major skills are puzzling, sketching, painting, constructing and fixing objects, but also reading and writing. Their most suitable careers are those of engineers, navigators, sculptors, visual artists, architects, or mechanics.
A bodily/kinaesthetic intelligence is typical for those persons who prefer to move around, to use their body or parts of it, such as artists, physical education teachers, artisans, dancers, actors, athletes, or clowns. In general, they are good at handling objects, coordinating their body movements, acting, using body language, dancing, doing sports, or crafts.
Musical intelligence involves sensitivity to musical patterns, sounds, tones, rhythms. People with this type of intelligence sing, whistle, play instruments, recognize, compose and remember songs, and they react to environmental sounds, such as bells or singing birds. They may work as musicians, singers, composers, conductors, or as DJs.
The interpersonal intelligence refers to one’s capacity of understanding, communicating and cooperating with other people. Teachers, priests, salespeople counsellors, business persons have this type of intelligence highly developed, proven by their ability of using empathy, counselling, seeing things from different points of view, listening to the others, organizing things or trying to solve conflicts.
In contrast with the interpersonal intelligence, the intrapersonal intelligence refers to the capacity to know, understand, and appreciate one’s inner feelings, strengths and weaknesses, desires and dreams. People with this type of intelligence can choose to be philosophers, researchers, or theorists.
There are two new types of intelligence, namely the naturalistic and the existentialistic one. The former refers to one’s sensitivity to plants, minerals, animals and the natural world in general. Such persons work as botanists, biologists, farmers or teachers of biology. Those who show interest in cosmic and existentialistic matters, mythology, life and death, or the infinite possess the latter type of intelligence.
Gardner’s theory brought a major transformation to the learning and teaching process, since it tried to change the teachers` perspective about the focus of their instruction. If in the past, linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence were the only ones addressed in a normal classroom, with Gardner’s theory the teachers realized that the same activity might not be suitable for all the students. Moreover, they were encouraged to use in their lessons songs, drama, arts, dance, field trips, cooperative learning, role-play, and even inner reflection. In such a way, the lesson can capture everybody’s interest and make use of their type of intelligence, and it avoids labelling some students as being “learning disabled”.
Since the humanistic theory centres the learner as a whole in the middle of the learning process, it advocates that effective teaching should take into account all these dimensions. The learning activities should be directed towards all the learners possessing different intelligences. No one should feel neglected, uninterested or unable to perform a task that does not appeal to his/her intelligence. For example, in the same lesson, we can include a warm-up action game that is suitable for those having a bodily/kinaesthetic intelligence, a song activity for those with musical/rhythmic intelligence, and a problem-solving task preferred by the logical/mathematical ones. Learners react to diversity and pick from the great amount of activities those that best fit their intelligence and their learning preferences and styles.
The great advantage of this theory is that it offers different pathways to learning, providing us with more teaching possibilities and going far beyond the traditional linguistic and logical mathematical methods, such as reading texts and writing tasks. For example, in EFL classes, a topic like pollution can be approached using the Multiple Intelligences Theory like this: using a text that presents the problem of pollution (linguistic), examining a graph that presents the degree of pollution in the world (spatial), imagining a role play or acting in a sketch on this topic (bodily-kinaesthetic), organizing a trip and observing the phenomenon in nature (naturalistic), writing a song about it (musical), or thinking of the actions one undertakes in order to protect nature (intrapersonal).
Murray Loom, a teacher in Canberra, Australia, has produced the following chart with the aim of offering a synthesis of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory. It is available at the following web address: http://www.longman.pl/files/materialy_dodatkowe/teachers_club/TC_sample4-6.pdf

 

TYPE

LIKE TO

IS GOOD AT

LEARNS BEST BY

LANGUAGE ACTIVITES

Linguistic Learner

‘The word player’

Read, write, tell stories

Memorising names, places, dates and trivia

Saying, hearing and seeing words

Word games

Reading games

Writing games

Storytelling

Show and tell

Role-play

Using puppets

Tongue twisters

Crosswords/anagrams

Logical/ Mathematical Learner

‘The questioner’

Do experiments, figure things out, work things out, work with numbers, ask questions, explore patterns and relationships

Maths, reasoning, logic and problem solving

Categorising, classifying, working with abstract patterns / relationships

Word puzzles

Reading puzzles

Writing puzzles

Logical problem solving

Computer games

Number puzzles

Classifying

Ranking

Sequencing/Ordering

Spatial Learner

‘The visualiser’

Draw, build, design and create things, daydream, look at pictures, watch movies play with machines

Imagining things, sensing changes, mazes,

puzzles, reading maps, charts

Visualising, dreaming, using the mind’s eye, working with colours and pictures

Shape puzzles

Mind Maps

Drawing

Visualisations

Diagrams

Constructing models

Maps and coordinates

Drawing

Learning from videos and CD-ROM-s

Musical Learner

‘The music lover’

Sing, hum tunes,

listen to music,

play an instrument, respond to music

Picking up sounds, remembering melodies, noticing pitches and rhythms, keeping time

Rhythm, melody, music

Songs

Action rhymes

Chants

Bodily/ Kinaesthetic Learner

Move around, touch and talk, use body language

Physical activities

(sport/dancing/acting)

Touching, moving, interacting with space, processing knowledge through bodily sensations

TPR

Craftwork

Dancing

Physical activities

Action rhymes, songs and games

Interpersonal Learner ‘The socialiser’

Have lots of friends, talk to people, join groups

Understanding people, leading others, organising, communicating, manipulating, mediating conflicts

Sharing, comparing, relating, cooperating, interviewing

Pair work

Group work

Brainstorming

Peer Teaching

Dialogues

Interviews

Surveys

Intrapersonal Learner

Work alone, pursue own interests

Understanding self, focusing inward on feelings/dreams, following instincts, pursuing interests/goals, being original

Working alone, individualised projects, self-paced instruction, having own space

Learning Diaries

Reflection

Creative writing

Project work

Personal goal-setting


Another dimension of the humanistic approach, rooted in Dewey’s work, was the Facilitation Theory developed by Carl Ransom Rogers (1902-1987), derived from his “client-centred” or “non-directive therapy” . The basic principle of his theory is that learning occurs by the teacher having the role of a facilitator, in an environment in which learners feel free to accept and express new ideas, and to engage in significant learning without being threatened by external factors. According to him, the facilitator’s attitudes and ways of being are more important than the methods he/she applies in the classroom. Moreover, the facilitation theory encourages a new behaviour from the teachers` part characterized by their ability to:
• focus on facilitation, rather than directiveness;
• listen to the learners, value and understand their feelings, beliefs, reactions, and experiences;
• give up personal beliefs in favour of the learner’s;
• prize, accept and trust the learners;
• build a strong relationship with their learners without neglecting the teaching act and the transmission of content;
• accept feedback from the learner’s part.
As for learners the, they bring the following new dimensions to the learning-teaching context:
• responsibility for their learning;
• self-evaluation;
• focus on solving major problems and reaching high standards.
Through its principles, the Facilitation Theory, and the humanistic approach altogether, represents a new perspective on teaching and learning, centring the learner at the heart of these processes. In contrast with the early theories, such as the behaviourist and the cognitive ones, the recent humanistic approach takes into account the learners with all their characteristics: cognitive abilities, personality, type of intelligence, behaviour, preferences, learning styles, and even emotions, feelings, and attitudes.

Bibliography
1. http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-rogers.htm
2. http://www.ldpride.net/learningstyles.MI.htm
3. http://www.longman.pl/files/materialy_dodatkowe/teachers_club/TC_sample4-6.pdf
4. Thornbury, Scott (2006). An A-Z of ELT – A Dictionary of Terms and Concepts Used in English Language Teaching, Macmillan, Great Britain p. 96

 

  Creativity in TEFL. Ten Enjoyable Activities for English Classes

by Mona-Maria Moldoveanu, Liceul Tehnologic “Dumitru Dumitrescu” Buftea, jud. Ilfov

Keywords:
creative activities, creative thinking, logical thinking, deductive reasoning, teamwork

Our main goal as teachers should be to offer meaningful activities that develop creative and critical thinking in contexts that are related to reality. This is the reason why I have selected some effective and enjoyable activities that any teacher could try with their students in class.

1. Dr. Know-it-all (teamwork, creative thinking)
Directions: Ask for three volunteers who together become “Dr. Know-it-all” and can answer any question asked. Each person can only respond with one word at a time. If the doctor begins the answer with “because”, the second person must link the next word to the previous word. This panel of three must connect the words so that one complete statement is made in answering the question.

2. Honey, do you love me? (practice using different voice tones)
Directions: Students form a circle with one student in the middle (It). The middle person must approach students in the circle and ask : “Honey, do you love me?”. The person being questioned must answer with “Honey, I love you, but I just can’t smile”. If she/he does smile or laugh, she/he becomes “It” and the previous person in the middle then joins the circle. The only rule is the person who is “It” is not allowed to touch other players but may make as many funny faces or voices as he/ she wishes.

3. People to people (learning parts of the body, improve listening skills)
Directions: Ask each student find a partner. The teacher calls out two body parts and the partners must touch the two parts called (i.e. one person’s nose to the other’s elbow). They will continue touching the areas while the teacher keeps calling out other parts adding to each command. When the teacher sees that the partners are about to fall, he/she calls out “people to people”, and the students must find a new partner and start the game again.

4. Two truths and a lie (creative thinking, forming complete sentences)
Directions: Everyone must tell three things about themselves. Two should be true and one should be a lie. The students must try to guess what the lie is. This is an excellent activity for students to get to know each other better and a great way for students to talk about themselves.

5. Pass the picture (description, interpretation)
Directions: 5 volunteers must leave the room. The remaining students must draw a picture, not too detailed. The first person comes in and sees the picture for about one minute. The next person will come in and the first volunteer must describe the picture to him/ her. Then the 3rd person comes in and the second volunteer describes the picture and so on until the last volunteer has heard the description. The last person must draw the description given to him/ her then compare his picture to the original drawing.

6. Folding the paper game (shows how people interpret things differently)
Directions: Give each student a piece of paper and ask them close their eyes (and keep them closed!). Then ask them: fold the paper in half then tear off the bottom right hand corner. Then fold it in half again. Ask the students to open their eyes , unfold the paper and notice how many different ways people followed the same instructions.

7. Mixing a story (logical thinking, deductive reasoning)
Break a story the students have never heard before into many pieces and give them to students (or in small groups). They should work together to put the story together. They must use critical thinking to determine how stories are normally written and deductive reasoning to figure out the order. A variation of this requires the students to write their own stories, which are then broken into pieces and passed around to classmates to reconstruct.

8. What are you doing? (action verbs)
Directions: All students must pair up. Within each pair one student asks the other: ”(their name), what are you doing?”. The second student responds by naming whatever action comes to mind ( I am dancing in a ballet, etc.). Answers can be anything, encourage them to be creative! The first student then immediately starts performing whatever action the other student named , and while they are doing this, the third student asks “___ what are you doing?” and enacts whatever action the other student names. This goes very quickly and once it gets started, both students should be doing something physically. One great way to get everybody started is to declare an action yourself that one person in each group starts with and the other will then begin the questioning.

9. Surprise- surprise (concentration)
Directions: Students in pairs or in small groups, sit next to each other. Assign a leader, then the group begins to hold a casual conversation about weather, school, family, friends, life, etc. As the conversation progresses, at a signal from the leader each player starts to move in a surrealistic, unexpected way, making bizarre physical gestures and body actions, while holding a naturalistic conversation. At the next signal the conversation continues with bizarre physical actions, but conversation now turns into nonsense- replies that have nothing to do with the topic at hand, words strung together in nonsense patterns, etc. With the next signal the conversation returns to normal but bizarre physical movements continue. At the final signal physical actions return to normal and the conversation comes to a natural end.

10. Same and different ( comparatives)
Directions: The students sit in a big circle and the teacher is also in the circle, having an empty chair next to him/ her. The teacher starts the game by saying: “ Mary, I want you to sit next to me because you are shorter than me”. The student called comes next to the teacher, leaving an empty chair. One of the students sitting next to the empty chair then has to make a similar sentence using the comparative of adjectives and calling another student to sit next to them.
 

Bibliography:
Mario Rinvolucri - "Grammar games. Cognitive, affective and drama activities for EFL students", Cambridge University Press
Dale N. Le Fevre - "Best new games" , Human Kinetics

 

 

 Let’s ICTeach English! English Teaching Activities That Require the Use of ICT

by Iulia Manicea, Colegiul National de Informatica ,,Tudor Vianu”, Bucharest
 

Keywords: ICT, group work, pair work, platform, peer evaluation

These activities are part of a booklet published in cooperation with other teachers from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. The booklet is a final product of a Comenius multilateral partnership of schools from the above-mentioned countries and from Romania, Colegiul National de Informatica ,,Tudor Vianu”, who is the coordinating school. The title of the Comenius project is Teaching Innovatively (with focus on ICT) and Its Impact on the Quality of Education and its official website is http://www.lbi.ro/teachinginnovatively/ .

Introductory tips:
To ensure better communication and transparence as regards the teacher’s requirements (which are in total accordance with the national curriculum) and the way grading is done, I suggest that all activities, deadlines, assignments, tasks and materials to help students be posted on a platform such as www.wikispaces.com.
Activity 1 - Let us make a magazine!
(Activity suitable for middle school students)
In groups of 3-6 students are required to make a magazine on the computer and have the printed version as well when the deadline comes and they have to show and orally present their magazine at a pre-established time. The magazine has to be uploaded on the working platform that the teacher uses with his/her students. The task is given at least one month before the deadline.
Instructions to be given to students:
The magazine has to contain a minimum of 10 pages .
OBLIGATORY ITEMS IN THE MAGAZINE:
 pictures of the whole group
 2 biographical pages (information about the people in the group and about each student’s contribution to the magazine)
 a page of advertising
 2 interviews( real- they can be taken face to face or via internet)
 1 page of jokes and riddles- with sources cited
 2 pages with personal drawings
 2 original poems- written by you-rhyme is not obligatory
 A scary/funny story- original
 2 pages on one of the following topics- with sources cited
The students are instructed how to cite sources (see endnote i)
Activity 2 - Group projects
(Activity suitable both for middle school and high school students- the level of difficulty and the topics will have to be different)
Students are required to make a group project in whose making or presentation they use the computer.They will also present their project and the final product of the project at the established deadline. The task is set, clearly explained in class and posted at least 1 month before the deadline. Each group will evaluate a project together with the teacher, based on an evaluation grid.
Instructions, steps and tips for students :
1. Form your group of 3-6 people.
2. In your group decide on a topic out of the given topics.
3. Remember your project means a final product (e.g. A video, a play, a magazine, a video, a website, a blog, etc) and an oral presentation- so decide on the product
4. Divide responsibilities clearly and start working.
5. Make the product and decide on the way your oral presentation will look like.
6. When you make your oral presentation, it should last 10-15 minutes- you will start by saying what topic you have chosen and why and by sharing what each of you has done for the project.Next you will present the product and the project as such- you can all present or you can choose a spokesperson/s.
7. You can use props for the presentation- handouts, costumes, and treats for your colleagues, etc.
8. Each group will evaluate another group’s project and each group will have their project evaluated by other colleagues(together with the teacher) based on an evaluation grid( see below).
9. Cite your sources. (see endnote i)
Suggested evaluation grid for the group projects ( for grades on a scale from 1-10)
 

No.

Date

Name of the student who is evaluating

(a representative of another group) and the group he /she is representing

Names of the Ss  who are presenting

Score for the product- max 2

points

Score for the oral presentation- max 3 points

Score for the demonstrated creativity  –max 2 points

Score for the division of responsibilities  –max 2 points

Time

(minutes and seconds)

Final score

+1 point granted

  1.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Examples of general topics for middle school ( they can use an individualized smaller topic from within the general one):
1. TRAVEL
2. OUR FUTURE
3. IT’S FUN!
4. LITERATURE
5. ENVIRONMENT/ ECOLOGY
6. SPORTS
7. SCIENCE
8. TELEVISION AND CINEMA
9. ADVENTURES
10. HEALTH

Activity 3 – Pair/group oral presentations
(Activity suitable for middle school students)
In pairs established randomly in class ( by drawing tickets with numbers on them for example- there is a bowl with numbers representing the number of the topic, each number can be found on 2 tickets and one number can be found on 3 tickets if there is an odd number of students in the class- the 2 or people who have drawn tickets with the same number will be a pair/group and will deal with the topic whose number they have drawn- there is a numbered list of topics which is posted online) the students will have to prepare an oral presentation that should not last less than 10 minutes or more than 15 minutes. They will present their production at an established deadline. The task is set, clearly explained in class and posted at least 1 month before the deadline. Each pair/group will evaluate a presentation together with the teacher, based on an evaluation grid.
Below are the instructions given and posted online for students:
Presentations should last between 10-15 minutes and all people in the group must speak even if you have materials as well. You may use any kind of help you need: Power Point presentations, handouts, videos, songs, costumes, BUT YOU MUST SPEAK NOT READ and SOURCES MUST BE CITED. (see endnote i)
Suggested topics for oral presentations:
1. Pyramids
2. ”Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift
3. Leonardo da Vinci
4. Celebrations in the UK
5. ”The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain
6. Albert Einstein
7. Important Monuments in the USA
8. ”Robinson Crusoe” By Daniel Defoe
9. Isaac Newton
10. Strange Facts
11. ”Animal Farm” by George Orwell
12. The Rainforest
13. ”The Catcher In The Rye” by J.D. Salinger
14. George Washington
15. The History of Baseball
16. ”Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll
17. Paranormal Activity
18. Henry VIII
19. The History of Basketball
20. “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde
21. Elizabeth I
22. The American Revolution
23. ”Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens
24. The History of Football
25. ”Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson
26. Celebrations in USA
27. Thomas Jefferson
28. Loch Ness
29. Benjamin Franklin
30. Life in the Middle Ages in England
Suggested evaluation grid for the pair oral presentations ( for grades on a scale from 1-10)
 

No.

Date

Name of the student who is evaluating

 

Names of the Ss  who are presenting

Score for correctness, accuracy

relevance –max 2 p

Score for organisation, coherence &

cohesion –max 3 p

Score for the demonstrated creativity - max 2 p

Scre for how convincing the presentation  was –max 2 p

Time

(minutes and seconds)

Final score

+1 point granted

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Activity 4 – Teaching done by students (in pairs / groups)
(Activity suitable for high school students)
In pairs established randomly in class ( by drawing tickets with numbers on them for example- there is a bowl with numbers representing the number of the topic, each number can be found on 2 tickets and one number can be found on 3 tickets if there is an odd number of students in the class- the 2 or people who have drawn tickets with the same number will be a pair/group and will deal with the topic whose number they have drawn- there is a numbered list of topics which is posted) the students will have to prepare an oral presentation that should not last less than 5 minutes or more than 10 minutes. Students are clearly explained that they teach the assigned topic, so their presentations must be as if made by a teacher. They will present their productions at an established deadline. The task is set, clearly explained in class and posted online at least 1 month before the deadline. Each pair/group will evaluate a presentation together with the teacher, based on an evaluation grid.
Below are the instructions given and posted online for students:
Presentations- in pairs/groups - teaching done by students:
The presentations will last between 5-10 minutes. Each pair's presentation- not the people in the pair, but the presentation/performance (teaching) -will be evaluated by another pair and by the teacher based on the evaluation grid. In your presentation (teaching) you may use any available props or materials ( Power Point Presentations, handouts, treats, games) but you and your colleague/s must speak, not read .You can be as creative as you want. REMEMBER THAT , AS TEACHERS, YOU MUST HOLD YOUR STUDENTS’(COLLEAGUES’) ATTENTION. Do not forget to cite sources! (see endnote i)
Suggested topics to be taught by students in pairs:
1. Advertising in UK/ Advertising in USA- famous brands and famous slogans
2. History of internet
3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury/ A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
4. British Modern Music
5. Education(stages and exams) in UK and USA
6. How to write a CV and a letter of application
7. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens- a bildungs roman
8. The Lake Poets
9. Tourist Attractions in UK/ USA/ Australia/ Canada
10. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift- a satire
11. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – a key novel
12. Enlightenment in the USA
13. Modernist writers in UK and USA
14. The Hippie Generation- Woodstock Festival
15. Lord of the flies by William Golding
16. A short history of BBC/CNN
17. Pygmalion by George Bernard Show- presentation and main theme
18. Animal Farm by George Orwell- plot and the symbolism of the character
19. Edgar Alan Poe- the father of modern detective story
20. Sherlock Holmes- a mystery
21. Henry James- American values vs European Values
22. The Elizabethan Theatre
23. Soap-operas (definition, short history and popularity- why so popular?)
24. Famous Australian/Canadian Brands
25. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde- the values reflected by this play

Suggested evaluation grid for the pair oral presentations-teaching done by students ( for grades on a scale from 1-10)
 

No.

Date

Name of the student who is evaluating

 

Names of the Ss  who are presenting

Score for correctness, accuracy

relevance –max 2 p

Score for organisation, coherence &

cohesion –max 3 p

Score for the demonstrated creativity - max 2 p

Scre for how convincing the presentation  was –max 2 p

Time

(minutes and seconds)

Final score

+1 point granted

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Activity 5 – Films made by students
(Activity suitable for high school students)
In groups students are required to make a short film on one of the topics given(they choose which one). Students are given the task at least 1 month before the established deadline.All the information is posted online. The final productions are viewed according to the deadline.
Below are the instructions given and posted online for students:
You can make films in any form yo want and you may use up to 1 minute of filmed material from any other sources rather than what you have personally filmed. If you use other sources, please cite them at the end of your final product,the film. Your films may be documentaries, short stories, etc. The film must last between 5 and 10 minutes and you must write a script in English for your film. You must submit the script on the viewing day in a printed form or on a CD/DVD, together with the film. Also, the way you divided responsibilites during the making of the film will have to be presented clearly before/after the viewing of the film in class.
Suggested topics for films:

1. PREVENTING AND PUNISHING CRIME
2. ADVERTISING AND CONSUMERS
3. THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
4. TECHNOLOGY AND PROGRESS
5. AMBITION AND SUCCESS
It would also be interesting for all students in the same class to make different films on the same given topic, to see how different their perspectives are.

 

 Theorizing Exile. The Facets of Irish Exile
 

by Marilena Mocuţa, Liceul Teoretic ‘Gheorghe Şincai’ Zalău

Keywords: exile, identity, dislocation, transition, depletion


The issue of exile has more intricacy than a mere reinvention of the self in a totally new world. It requires particular forces to negotiate with the two identities which oscillate between conflict and reconciliation. Lacking certain abilities, the exile can no longer achieve the metamorphosis demanded by the hybrid identity and the outcome may be ghastly: suicide or mental alienation. The exilic existence features the self-imposed dislocation or the retreat into silence and the forced rupture from stability. Exile has attained significance in the cultural and historical schedule of the Irish nation. Irish literary scene mirrors the anxieties and qualms of a people which underwent the transition from old to new. Thus, exile furnishes powerful voices to those prepared to listen.
Exile bears the mask of isolation and feasible regress. It epitomizes the Irish nation on the backdrop of permanent shifts, endless ceasefires and late effects of the famine struggle. Irish writing plays the part of the perennial reminder of Cathleen ni Houllihan’s distraught existence. The Irish literary arena is full of dislocation, turmoil, loss and deformity.
The plight of exile purports miscellaneous modus operandi and invites the reader’s imagination to tackle with the substantial prospects of occurrence. Emphasis is paid on the consequences of exile in the characters’ attitude, actions and understanding of life. They can either become heroes through accepting the facts and acknowledging the gist of exilic existence or can close out the circle of life as anti-heroes overwhelmed by tears, loss and despair.
The term ‘exile’ extends to all conceivable forms of alienation and seems both very simple to understand and too complex to come to grips with. It has semantic richness which rises from its possibility to attribute values to its area of denotation and its activity of connotation. In other words, asserts symbolic and metaphoric values to exile depicted as banishment, imposed removal from native land or intended absence from the original country; these aspects belong to being geographically in exile. The second possibility is the crisis of non-belonging to one’s community, feeling an outsider as a result of discrimination.
The theme of exile is quite old, it relates to our beginnings as human beings if we consider the fall with Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Further on, exile with strong roots in epic tradition seems to represent a fundamental, existential condition of life as depicted in the modern novel. Almost a universal status, exile has not lost its rhetorical freshness giving the possibility of exploring the immortal youth of exile.
It is a permanent negotiation between two places, two cultures, two identities which either continue to conflict or reconcile themselves to a balance. The two identities differ in terms of gender, class, age and nationality. The native location is re-experienced in a different temporal frame and living in exile leads to acquiring a new identity. The exile can attain personal growth, confidence and realization. But the exilic rebirth is nonetheless connected to death of the person one has become in a specific context.
Exile literature has emerged from the desire to address the impact of the exilic experience individually and universally. Having particular characteristics, the works of exile literature, most of the times, try to create the sense of self out of the traumatic feeling of dislocation and disorientation. Exile has gained significance in the cultural and historical agenda of the Irish nation. It combines negative aspects as depletion and silence which are difficult to represent; it is like the Famine 1845-1849 whose cultural, social and demographic values exile still reproduces. One trying to observe liaisons between the contemporary Irish literary imagination and exile realizes that there are obstacles in discovering how reality of exilic absence may be imaginatively recuperated.
The contemporary Irish works of exile include subjects as: the troubles of identity, the difficulties of accepting the exile, the lure of globalization, the privacy and its values, the insecurity of the individual and the challenges of morality. Exile, experienced as physical and psychic dislocation is defined not exactly by what it includes but by what it lacks. There is the permanent longing for the previous state, the nostalgic existence, the desire to return to one’s homeland and also the fear to return to that place where one can no longer live because of different reasons: historical, political, social and personal.
The process is hurtful, complex and complicated and evades generalization and consistency. Its most problematic issue is the distinction between home and exile and between danger and safety. There are times when people living in exile perceive their return home to their natal villages as an exile from exile. An exile may never regard himself/herself as accomplished or complete with this primary or secondary feeling of an outsider, of a traumatized person impelled to a search for self. It is like living on moving sands, never finding the perfect location to offer you moral, financial or spiritual support. Trying to deal with a new ideology, a new scale of values, a new time frame makes it difficult to grasp for breaths of selfhood but not impossible. The aftermath can be glorious, mediocre or even disastrous.
Displacement and separation lead to particular emotions and values which can be experienced even by the internal exiles. Exile produces a division between those who have left and those who remain behind; the latter opposing to or rebelling towards the political system. Transition, need for change, search for identity, wish for stability and security, rupture and consciousness are vivid steps both categories of exiles pass through. There is no easy way out from the milieu of contrasting forces that shape one’s evolution towards finding the self. Exile has a universal meaning of physical and mental dislocation, universality triggered by particular individual and social circumstances.
The eternal avenue of exile is never very far because exile belongs to all times and all places thus, life can be considered a quintessentially exilic experience. Considering these, exile takes the shape of each exile; it has as many faces as those in exile. Aren’t we all at certain moments in life exile? We feel there is a huge gap between us and what the world politically, historically and socially wants. We feel surrounded by invisible bars of speech, action and behavior. In that moment rules are felt stricter and probably unreal. That status makes one long for the community’s help, stability and trust. It begins when a person realizes that he or she is alone, abandoned and when each trial for a patch of solid ground is meant to fail.
Writers in exile deal with the consequences of leaving their homeland and face the question of weather the rupture has not produced a loss of memory, a fading away of those loved places. But this departure does not mean that they only write about exile or that their imagination in writing about the native country fails them. Their homeland, the place where the writers feel at ease with their true, unspoiled being is the language in which they write. They live in the shelters they build through their work just like the eternal travelers whose home is wherever the steps take them. Anyway, it is everyone’s right to choose where to live and the consequences can help or not, it depends on the expectations, wishes, character and selfhood.
One can owe to exile the knowledge of a political, spiritual and cultural reality but especially the awareness of that new dimension, the revelation of the intimate self. The suffering of exile should be transformed at a metaphysical understanding level otherwise it may lose its main importance.
Living in exile means a permanent struggle with life, with the environment and with the self, especially the latter. Some exiles turn from shame to anger and eventually admit who and what they are and make peace with themselves while others elope into writing about the misfortunes of their existence or about the native country. There is another category of exiles who cannot cope with a hybrid identity and return, if they can, to the place where the roots are stronger than ever, the place of their birth.
The uncertainty on a different, impersonal land maintains a continuous tension. The rupture, the dislocation produces the feeling of non belonging, neither to the original country nor to the adoptive one; it is like being with the legs in two different boats and not knowing how to gain the so longed for stability .
The literature of the exiles, this work of art becomes the unusual ambassador meant to represent their identity and their lives as exiles .The need of writing is a protective reflex with wider connotations or motivations. Writing in itself is therapy and exiles of any kind feel the urge to escape from the present and emerge into a happy past and to assert a threatened identity, through writing. Unfortunately, as any substitute, writing does not heal, it is not medicine for the actual state of mind, body and soul; it expresses despair. Intellectuals tend to search for a better place to serve their culture but having reached the country of the second life; many discover how far the solution can be.
The Irish literature scene operates as a detailed reflection of the abiding realignment from old to new, from a local and land focused mentality to the urbanized, modernized, thus universal world. Transition is always problematic and engages both gains and losses. The exile literature mirrors the specific obstacles, the relocated or trans-located individual has to surmount.

Bibliography:
Harte, Liam and Parker, Michael eds. Contemporary Irish Fiction: Themes, Tropes, Theories:
George O’Brien : The Aesthetics of Exile. London: Macmillan Press Ltd, 2000
Said, E.W. Reflections on exile and Other Essays. Cambridge: Harvard University Press,2000
Tabori, Paul. The Anatomy of Exile: A Semantic and Historical Study. London: Harrap, 1972


 

 

 The Susi Program 2012. An Experience of a Lifetime
 

by Luisa Filip, Cluj County School Inspectorate

Keywords:
Access, equity, civic engagement, service learning.
 

Motto:
‘’I cannot tell any other society or culture what to say to its own children, but I can tell you what I say to mu own: The world is being flattened. I didn’t start it and you can’t stop it, except at great cost to human development and your own future. But we can manage, it for better or for worse. If it is for better, not for worse, then you and your generation must not live in fear of either the terrorists or of tomorrow, of either the al-Qaeda or of Infosys. You can flourish in this flat world, but it does take the right imagination and the right motivation.”
Thomas L. Friedman-‘’The World Is Flat –A Brief History of The Twenty-First Century”
 

Introduction
In the summer of 2012 I had the privilege of taking part in the prestigious SUSI program (Study of The United States Institute for Secondary Educators)– a USA government exchange program for secondary administrators and educators, sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs whose mission is to promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
Specifically, the program aimed at providing scholars and educators a substantial, initial exposure to the United States through short term study on a U.S. campus. It was held from June 7th to July 20th, and was hosted by the California State University (CSU) based in Chico. The program was basically made up of lectures, seminars, conferences, meeting with education administrators and interaction with American colleagues plus a lot of study tours and site visits. Twenty nine (29) educational professionals coming from 28 countries from all the continents were appointed for SUSI 2012. The main theme for this year was “Exploring Access and equity in U.S. Education and Society.” This interesting but challenging topic was tackled by some eminent and distinguished scholars who readily invested their precious time and energy in our company- despite their busy schedules- to familiarize us with the theme. The comprehension of the basic theme was acquired by dealing with several subthemes each focusing on an aspect of the topic from a certain angle.
Some of the subthemes that were approached:
“Defining access, equity, looking at relationship between education, immigration, and civic engagement”.
“Overview of the US government system.”.
“Civic engagement overview: an introduction to historical and current trends and issues of civic engagement in US education and society.”
“Immigration overview: An introduction to historical and current trends and issues of immigration (America ethnic origins) in US education and society.”
“Case study: The Hmong immigrants in northern California,”
“Education overview: An introduction to historical and current trends and issues of access and equity in US education and society”.
“Access and equity: Contemporary issues of access and equity in public education.”
“Overview of the federal-state government relationship, Legislative process, transparency of government and civic engagement at the state level.”
“Lobbying presented by government Strategies.” “Educational policy issues: Closing the achievement gap, world languages and demographics.”.
“Special Education Overview” “Ability first Overview and Expectations”
“Types of alternative Education: A discussion of alternative education options in the U.S including home-schooling, continuing education, faith-based schooling, GED.”.
“Teaching for democracy in the classroom: Increasing access and equity in the classroom using democratic teaching methods.” “Service learning: How does service Learning encourage democratic education and support alternative learning styles?”
“Bilingual education: Dual immersion programs, ESL” “Case study: Mexican immigration in CA and EOP program at CSU, Chico” “Perspective in gender and education”
“Students’ cultural resources: can teachers use them in the classroom?”
Though the program was basically hosted by California State University, its implementation comprised site visits for pedagogical reason which led the participants to travel to many places. Though it is hard to make an exhaustive list of places we went to I will mention a few of them that I consider the most important and rewarding ones; for example in California we visited places like:
-State Capitol in Sacramento;
-Sacramento Charter High School;
-California Department of Education;
-In San Francisco, we went to:
-Angel Island;
-Alcatraz;
-Golden Gate bridge;
-Museum of history
In Chicago, Illinois we visited many schools where service learning and civic engagement are implemented. In sum our visits took us to the following places:
-Martin Luther King Jr. High school;
-Michele Clark Magnet High School;
-Walter Payton College High School;
-CPS (Chicago Public School);
-The Chicago national museum;
-Lake Michigan.
Then our site visits continued in Wisconsin (Platteville) and in Washington DC. In Platteville, the places concerned by our visits were the following.
-Wisconsin State University (Platteville)and its historical surroundings.
Finally in Washington D.C, the places of interest that received our visits were:
-National education Association (NEA) ;
-U.S Department of education;.
Apart from the intensive pedagogic activities, the schedule included a lot of leisure activities. The major ones were:
-Saturday morning farmer’s market visit;
-Friendship day spent in a Chico host family;
-Welcome reception;
-Poster presentation( each participant presented his country and activity)
-Friday night concert;
-Barbeque at Bidwell Park, Chico;
-Visit of Sutter’s Ford and the California Indian museum;
-Attending the Thursday night market
-Observe “Gay pride parade”;
-Bay cruise: Red and White tour around the Golden gate and Alcatraz (with historic information);
-Visiting the twin Peaks, Pacific Ocean, etc.
-Visiting the Muir woods national monument Park;
-Visit the Lassen Volcanic Park;
THE BENFITS OF THE PROGRAM
1. It improved my capacity to work in group
SUSI 2012 improved tremendously my capacity to work in group. Working in group is a great quality required in all areas of education.
Luckily for the participants of SUSI 2012, group-work was promoted through the program, thus providing everyone the opportunity to revisit, consolidate and develop his/her capacity to live and work in an heterogeneous group whose members are from various origins, believes, educational backgrounds, races, sex etc. For example, for the research projects, the participants were divided into groups of five or six members who had to transcend their diversities and work collaboratively and supportively to complete the project and present it by the deadline. Thus the group members were compelled to be tolerant regarding their differences and their divergent interests and opinions and to agree on a topic and research procedure which allowed the active participation of everybody etc. In order to achieve the expected goal, for a smooth running of the group, every member was given a role to play within the group.
Beyond the research projects, during the six weeks, a lot of academic work incorporated group work. Therefore, we can say that the SUSI program was very profitable for the participants in many ways in a sense that it provided an effective framework to revise, experience and ultimately improve living and working in group habits with everyone.
2. It was an opportunity for immersion
When Stephen Krashen took a very strong position on the importance of input, by asserting that comprehensible input is all that is necessary for second language acquisition, these words referred to abstract realities in my mind. But with a longer stay in America, an environment where English is predominantly used to interact with people, we could now see clearly the tangible impact on our oral and written expression.
3. We had a better understanding of the American culture and civilization
Living in America gave us the exceptional opportunity to be exposed to the American civilization. This was done through interaction with the native population, or through the academic program taught to us or through observation. Even the television channels broadcasting were important sources for me better acquaint with American culture and civilization. This allowedme to understand how Americans are attached to freedom and liberty, democracy, patriotism, pursuit of happiness mutual understanding and support with people of other countries etc. It also empowered me to read critically what books and journal articles write on America.
4 Equity in education
Understanding the policy used by the USA government to address the current issue of equity and equal opportunity for all in education, gave me a real basis for comparison and objective appreciation of our own educational policies. What I kept in mind is that equal chance in education is an objective for the US government the attainment of which required equity towards all the citizens regardless of sex, religion, race, origin, social class etc. In this sense, various laws have impacted the ways in which schools prepare students in the U.S. Some of these prominent laws are :
Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896)
“Separate but equal” schools was lawful
Brown vs. Board of Education (1954)
Reversed Plessy vs. Ferguson. Declared that separate public schools for white and black students is unconstitutional
Civil Rights Act (1964)
Racial segregation, including in public schools, is illegal. States cannot receive federal money unless they comply.
Title IX (1972)
School programs must provide equal opportunities for women.
Lau vs. Nichols (1974)
Schools must provide linguistically appropriate accommodations for students who do not speak English.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (1975)
All children, including those with disabilities, are entitled to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.
Plyler vs. Doe (1982)
Undocumented immigrant children have the same right to a free public education as U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
McKinney-Vento Act (1987)
Homeless children must have consistent access to school and all of its services.
Proposition 227 in California (1998)
All students must be taught in English only. It essentially outlawed bilingual education.
No Child Left Behind (2001)
Federal funding for education is dependent on progress on standardized test scores (currently in just math and language arts).
The experience of America can serve as example and source of inspiration towards the achievement of quality education for all the citizens of any country.
5. Civic engagement and service learning
Service learning and civic engagement are two central concepts in the US education which struck me because of their effectiveness. A brief definition of service learning can be provided succinctly in these terms: “Service learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teaching civic responsibility and strengthen community.” From this definition, it is evident that there is a strong link between service learning and civic engagement. One entails necessarily the other.
To correct this failure in the education of the youth, service learning as experienced in American education can be suggested as a solution. Service learning, with regard to its numerous advantages can be implemented not only to train better citizens for the near future but also to highly motivate learners to actively play the first roles in the process of their own education. For that, the expertise that SUSI 2012 endowed me with can be shared with the actors of the education system in order to familiarize them with the innovative notions of service learning and civic engagement.
6. The acquaintance with the participants and the prominent personalities involved in this program
The program gave us the opportunity to meet various people from all over the world and we seized this unique occasion to establish contacts and exchange opinions.
Conclusion
To sum up, the purpose of SUSI 2012 was to provide scholars and educators of other countries with a substantive initial exposure to America, and thereby foster mutual understanding between the American people and people of other countries. If I do not fear to be perceived as exaggerating, I would say that it went beyond the expected results because it was highly awarding for us both on humanistic and professional level. In addition to the various academic contents related to the theme, by bringing together the participants from all over the world, the implicit message is that the whole world is like a village where no barrier can resist the desire of the world population to live together in harmony, peace, and love. Therefore, the world needs nowadays more than ever world citizens who will by their deeds and speeches promote the cardinal values like brotherhood, friendship etc. beyond boundaries, races, sex and opinions. And this is the unavoidable responsibility of school to train very good citizens who are the living embodiment of the above mentioned values. Of course, in the heart of every participant, SUSI 2012 has put the seeds for the battle in favor of equity, civic engagement, peace and love, acceptance of diversity etc because SUSI developed in us the competence, capacity and ability to engage in the fight for equity, justice, democracy, tolerance, etc. which are essential conditions for peaceful coexistence.





 

 “Creativity and Learning”. A New Comenius Rewarding Endeavour

by Iulia Perju, Colegiul National “Grigore Moisil”, Bucuresti

Keywords:
uncovering creativity, discovering the personal talent, Comenius Individual Mobility, Malta, international cooperation, networking

It is difficult to say what makes an experience really unforgettable: the place, the people, the ideas, the weather, the atmosphere, the relationships, the fitting of all pieces in their place? My answer would be: all these together, but especially their echo inside you. This is what I’m still feeling after coming back from Sliema (Malta) still amazed by the multi-coloured, multi-national, multi- intelligent and multi-effect course that I attended as part of a Comenius Individual Mobility.
Entitled “Creativity and Learning” and organized by The Learning Teacher Network in Sweden, the course reunited teachers and teacher trainers from 14 countries. At first I couldn’t realize the value of this number, but when I dived into the multitude of sounds, accents and approaches, I realised what an international person means. I have always loved foreign languages, all of them, but never only for the sake of the languages themselves, but as channels to people and towards the inside of the peoples speaking the languages. No matter how great this love could have been, until the course in Malta I had never had the chance to experience it. But dining with all these people, travelling together and exchanging ideas, spending our evenings under the Maltese warm and welcoming sky, and blending English with 14 different languages, sometimes at the same time, was more gratifying and mind-enriching than in my wildest dreams.
But let’s take all the ingredients of an intellectual dream come true one by one!
The organization was impeccable! Not only the alternation of work and leisure periods of time, but also the thoughtfulness of choosing the hotel, the field trips to Creativity Institutes (de Bono and St. James), the parties and fancy dinners (in Mdina and Baia Beach), even the menus. Magnus Persson should receive a thumb up and tens of Likes for having everything arranged and offered to us in the most natural manner possible. He told me that the merit should go to the Swedish spirit of organizing and planning but even so without caring and feeling as a part of it nothing like this could have been achieved.
The trainers were totally inspiring! Susanne Müller-Using from Germany and Tania Farrugia from Malta, together with all the other guest teachers from Centres of Creativity in Malta, gave us the insight of what a teacher-in-love-with-the-profession looks like. Until going to Malta, I have never heard of a centre or institute to study creativity, while Malta has several…. We were told that Malta’s most precious natural resource is its people’s creativity and this is how they have come to study and enhance it. I always considered that human resource is the most precious one, at both community and individual level but Malta was the first example of this value being taken into consideration nationally and to such a scale.
The classes themselves focused on inviting teachers to get into their students’ shoes and giving them tools to open up and develop their own and their students’ potential of originality and creativity. It has never been a problem of rating, but of cooperating and finding the best in you. Maybe the most interesting and enlightening was the “hands-on” activity during which I could see all those outstanding personalities and minds of my international colleagues working together and, most importantly, having so much fun together. And these people, the same who before were role-playing and feeling the joy of their students at work, two hours later were sitting around a group-talking table sharing and discussing the problems, worries and difficulties of their profession: teaching, evaluating, class management, fitting creativity into the curriculum, etc. with those profound-looking and deeply concerned eyes of someone who even in their dreams are looking for answers. I felt so proud and happy to be among them!
The conference room was not the only place I could appreciate my colleagues and my trainers. The 9th floor of our hotel, Victoria, the partying occasions, the trips together and the long meals filled with excellent Maltese food and wine, but also of a multitude of topics, jokes and experiences shared, were maybe even better. Talking to Susanne over the table about the mathematical ideas related to which is the shortest distance between two points, she smiled and said very convinced:”A smile!” And yes, even now, getting on or off the tram on my way to school, I often find myself smiling to strangers while accidentally I use the English “Excuse me!” or “May I?” instead of the Romanian ones. Nobody is bothered, some even smile, I correct myself quickly enough, but every time it happens I feel closer to the people around, but also to all my colleagues in the rainy Estonia or green Sweden or far-off Denmark, or neighbouring Bulgaria or all the other countries and places they told me about.
I have talked only about the people until now, maybe because I’m so much missing them and the atmosphere of joy and multiple and multiplying intelligence they created. But I wonder if everything would have been the same elsewhere but the sunny, whitish, breathing history, water surrounded Malta! Every morning at 6.30 I was at the 9th floor to take photos of the sun rising from the Mediterranean Sea and overflowing light over the sailing fishing boats on the horizon. Every afternoon I was going to the sea shore and I was strolling in the narrow and delicate streets of Sliema, always getting lost when about to come back and always finding a new way to the hotel, thus passing by new old houses with lighted lamps and Virgin Mary’s little statues beneath showing the way.
As I arrived a day earlier, I had the chance of taking a cruise by Mr. Morgan ships and the HOP-ON, HOPP-OFF bus to visit the main island. At Mdina I got off to visit the places where St. Paul started his Christian mission in Malta, but I lost track of time. How could I not? But this way, I had the opportunity to use the bus transport and blend the coming-home-after-work Maltese people and feel the country’s pulse in a new way. Some time in my past I graduated also the Journalism Faculty and my journalistic spirit could not feel more at ease and happy about the atmosphere around.
I’m now in front of my computer reliving all the events and I realize again how weak words can be when mirroring the actual experience. I only hope that the power of a picture could get closer to the joy and gratefulness of my memories. I also feel that urge to thank and show appreciation, but again there can’t be only one correct answer: to God for everything; to the National Agency, the trainers, all the colleagues and all the circumstances having made them the wonderful people I had the chance to meet for what I have received and experienced; to creativity, my principal, my students with their needs, Malta’s sun, Mdina’s ruins, Sliema’s hospitality, the breathtaking views of boats in the morning, being a teacher of English…. Thank you all! (To be continued)
 


 

 

 Testing, Assessment, Evaluation. An Overview of Formal Assessment
 

by Lacrimioara Nasui, “George Cosbuc” National College, Cluj-Napoca

Keywords: types of tests, formative, summative, diagnostic, placement, proficiency, backwash effect, discrete item tasks, integrative tasks, feedback, traditional vs authentic testing


Assessment

Assessment is one of the most important topics for us as teachers. It gives us and the students feedback on progress and achievement. It also gives us feedback on whether our teaching has been effective.
For teachers, it is vital to know when, what and how to assess. It is also important to know how to construct tests that actually test what has been taught. For students, getting good grades is very important to their progress not only at school, but perhaps for their future studies and careers.

Why test vs Why not test?

Why test?
- To find out students’ strengths and weaknesses
- To get to know the students
- To place students in a class
- To find out practical information about the students, i.e. their previous experience
- It gives the students a motivation to improve
- It encourages revision/ review/ recycling
- It gives exam practice
- It helps students to set short/long term goals
- It helps them to get a job/get into university

Why not test?
- It encourages students to focus on techniques and results rather than the process of learning
- Some students don’t need exams
- Exams can be irrelevant to real-life communication needs
- Pressure and stress can be demotivating
- Some students simply freak out during tests
- Marking is often subjective
- Continuous assessment may be better suited to some students
- Not always a true reflection of ability
- Often time-consuming- takes up class time and teacher preparation time


Testing, assessment, evaluation

Testing is one of the procedures that can be used to assess a learner’s performance. A test has a certain objectivity, for example to see to what extent a learner understands a written text. The test then checks whether the learner has achieved this objective. Testing uses tasks or exercises and assigns marks or grades based on quantifiable results.
Assessment means judging students’ performance by collecting information about it. We assess students in different ways, using different types of task or test. Assessment can be informal or formal.
Evaluation is the process of gathering information in order to determine the extent to which a language programme meets its goals. Relevant information can be teachers’ and parents’ opinions, textbook quality, exam results, the students’ attitudes, etc. Some of the tools of the evaluation process are tests, questionnaires, textbook analysis and observation.

Types of tests

1.Placement/entry tests- will indicate at which level a learner will learn most effectively in a situation where there are different levels or streams; used to find out what level the students are, so that they can be put in the right class.

2.Diagnostic tests- used to find out what the student knows and doesn’t know at the beginning of a course; they are based on failure; vital for teachers in order to design further course activities and work out remedial activities.

3.Progress tests (also called formative assessment)- used to find out how well students have learnt a certain part of a course, for example at the end of a unit, a fortnight, etc; the test aims to find out information about how well classes as a whole and individual students have grasped the learning objectives, how well the course content is functioning within the specified aims and objectives and future course design.

4.Achievement tests (also called summative assessment)- used to find out how well students have learnt the whole content of a course, at the end of the course/school year; they can put a lot of stress on both teachers and students.

5.Proficiency tests- used to find out how good students are at a language; the content of the test is not based on a course; are usually set by external bodies such as examination boards; designed to assess the students’ general level of English.

Backwash effect

The influence of tests on teaching is called the backwash effect. If your students have to do a test or maybe a public examination at the end of the course, this will affect the syllabus. If we have a good test, this should affect teaching in a positive manner. If we have a bad test, this might affect teaching in a negative manner.
What is a “good” test and what is a “bad” test? A test can have a positive backwash effect if it contains authentic, real-life examples of the type of tasks which your learners will need to perform in the future. Tests can have a negative influence if they contain artificial tasks not linked to real future needs. Teaching methods will probably reflect these tasks and the learning process could end up revolving around what we might term “exam practice”.
Your own tests will also have an effect on your students’ learning. If you test mainly grammar, your students will assume that this is the most important thing to learn and may make less effort during other more communicative activities.
Test types

Written tests are usually made up of two types of questions:

-discrete item tasks- testing specific individual language points; e.g. gap fill, multiple choice, sentence transformation and construction, rearranging words, etc; their marking is objective.

-integrative tasks- a number of items or skills tested in the same question; they are the most common way of assessing skills; they might include compositions, essays, role plays, stories; they involve judging lots of elements, e.g. writing, spelling, fluency, grammar; the marks we give students in these kinds of “test” depend on our judgement, and so they are subjective.

Traditional vs Authentic testing

 

Traditional

Authentic

Creates a standard/norm which requires that a certain percentage of students fail

Creates an environment where every student has the opportunity to succeed

Emphasizes one-shot tests that evaluate knowledge at a single moment in time

Emphasizes the on-going process of assessment for student growth

Focus on errors, low scores, mistakes and what students cannot do

Focus on the students’ strengths, what the student can do and documents growth

Judges the student without providing ways for improvement

Provides information that is useful to the learning process

Answers are final; students rarely review, revise, reflect, redo a testing experience

Engages the student in an on-going process of self- reflection

Encourages extrinsic reasons for learning to pass

Encourages life-long learning for continual growth, self-fulfillment and self-esteem

Promotes comparison between students

Compares the student to himself/herself in terms of past and present performance

Frequently limited to reading, listening, repeating of lectures and markings on paper

Involves creating, demonstrating, solving problems, discussing and engaging in active learning experiences




Bibliography:

1. TKT Course (Teaching Knowledge Test), Mary Spratt, Alan Pulverness, Melanie Williams; Cambridge 2005
2. The Practice of English Language Teaching (3rd edition), Jeremy Harmer,
Longman 2001
3. Steps to Success. A starter pack for newly qualified teachers, Sue Leather, British Council 2007


 

 Making Our Students Partners in Reading and Writing
 

by Pollyanna Opriş and Georgeta Rarinca, Liceul Teoretic Nicolae Bălcescu, Cluj Napoca

Keywords:
 creative, reading, writing, sample text, value crisis, books, activities, book cover, sources of inspiration, resource.


Why reading and writing?
Do you find it hard to teach reading and writing? Some of us do, some of us do not; it depends mostly on our students, how receptive and imaginative they are. Full attention is required when dealing with the demanding task: that of bringing original input from the students, making them cooperate with us, the teachers. Real partners are scarce and not really willing to focus.
While tackling this challenging issue we decided to start our approach by writing the following story based on real facts:
A friend of mine went to work abroad with a summer job. This summer job involved, among others, cleaning and dusting the furniture, which apparently seemed a household chore that could not take you by surprise in any way. Much to her surprise, though, our lady had to wipe clean the books in the bookshelves:
“These books must have cost a fortune; they are made of fine purple leather decorated with intricate golden letters. I wonder why they don’t weigh much…” she asked herself, while holding a book in her hand.
The puzzled lady solved the mystery in less than a minute; they were not genuine books but empty book covers, an entire collection of classical authors whose sole purpose was to embellish the living room giving it a more intellectual touch.
The proverb: Don’t judge a book by its cover made sense now. Yet all of us can judge the owner of such books without hesitation.
A little while after we have heard this story, we accidentally came across some elegant book covers at some antique shop and acting on the first impulse, we took a photo of the respective empty book cases to post it here as a living proof of people’s persistence not to read.
The conclusion we may draw is not very optimistic. Books are no longer books, readers are no longer readers but addicted video players, slaves of screens and virtual worlds.
We, as teachers, showed this photo and shared its story with our students. This triggered an unexpected burning ambition to overcome this value crisis. The result was more than rewarding; they wanted to make their point that reading is not obsolete, it is just that nowadays there are other temptations, stronger than the students’ will sometimes. How can a colourful touchscreen device compete with a few sheets of paper all bound together in a cover?
What is the aim?
Reading and writing in English can and have already involved students in activities that require handfuls of imagination and provide them with the opportunity to try their hand at something imaginative. The aim of performing such tasks is to challenge them to be creative, resourceful, diligent and focused; it is an occasion to increase awareness by monitoring their own development becoming thus self-assessors of their own progress.
What kind of texts?
Texts should be funny and entertaining, easy and not very long, containing simple words. Otherwise students might be bored and might give up reading while getting entangled in the multitude of sophisticated sentences.
The texts are supposed to inspire and interest them to such an extent that they feel eager to try their skills in doing the after reading activities and to ask for more. Students should be enthusiastic readers and writers able to stage activities of their own while integrating listening, speaking, and drawing skills. Here is a list of interactive activities you can use with your students:
• Open mind: ask your students to draw an empty head and fill it with words, symbols and images that come to the characters’ mind.
• Gender- bender: ask the students to change the gender of the character and to re-write the story from the new point of view
• A “hole” in the story: the students create a hole in the story where the characters are out of sight for a while. Describe what they are doing when not being seen.
• Second chance: ask the students to give the characters a second chance. What if…?
• Draw storyboards and cartoons: students are asked to choose a scene and then draw it and explain why they represented it in such a way.
• Daily edition: the students imagine that the characters hit the headlines. Write a title and an article to go with it.
• Imaginary friends: the students will choose the character they like best for a friend. They will imagine what they can talk about and what activities they can do together for fun.
Hobbies and personal interests dictate our life; as a consequence the best source of texts is what keeps us going. The world that surrounds us, the smallest details that are sometimes ignored constitute a never-ending resource. Encourage the students to look around them and note down their first impressions, make them feel that you care about them and they can therefore share with you, the teacher, their feelings and emotions. People on a crowded bus, patients waiting impatiently at the dentist’s door, neighbours fighting over ‘who makes most of the noise in the block of flats we live in’ can be ‘the fountain’ where you can go fishing for the characters. An insignificant pot, long-forgotten into somebody’s yard, or any other objects that your eyes fall upon make wonderful example of where and what to start with.
A sample text inspired from reality:
To your delight read this text, a product of our imagination.

Royal Potty
My name is Royal Potty. You may wonder why Royal is my surname. It’s about the feeling that I give you, people, while you are sitting on me. You instantly become a queen or a king on a throne.
As for my family name, Potty, is a cute nickname coming from Pot ’cause I am so lovable. Everybody likes me in their way and for different reasons.
Life hasn’t been easy with me. After retirement I was hoping to have a nice break from I used to do. Fat chance! There was a lot more in store for me.
Here I am giving a hand to a hardworking grandpa in his garden.
“You shouldn’t have mixed water with lime right in my hollow belly ” I start telling the old man who doesn’t listen to my wishes. He can’t see the damage this ghostly combination does to me.
“Hey, you again. Are you deaf? Stop stirring with your stupid walking stick. The mixture is overflowing and it’s ruining my arms, too.”
Luckily my ordeal is over. Grandpa feels sorry for me and rinses me with a splash of cold fresh water.
I look almost new and I feel so happy and relieved.
I enjoy my few days off in a tool shed where grandma finds me this time and suddenly has a brilliant idea. She is excited to find a home for her nesting hen who has turned down a normal hay shelter.
“Cluck, cluck, cluck,
I lay eggs for a buck.”
What language is that?! Eggs? What can they be? I realize that the “bombs” this hen has just dropped in my tummy must be the eggs.
Once the eggs are a dozen the nesting hen becomes aggressive and starts flapping her wings nervously, pinching me in the process. Consequently a hole appears in my suffering tummy. I get rid of this nasty experience once the hatched chicks decide to leave their nest proudly following their mummy in the backyard.
Empty and punctured as I was, I thought to myself: “I really deserve a holiday.”
An imaginative housekeeper gave me a new noble preoccupation – that of making the world a better place. I became a flower pot and a good friend for the flower growing inside me.
Me and the flower have been getting on well ever since.
To cut a long story short, reading and writing are worth the effort, whether done individually, in pairs or in groups. There is much to be gained in them, nothing to lose since the results may surprise readers and writers alike.
 

 

 Teachers, Let’s not Cease to Learn!
 

by Joo Erika, Liceul Teoretic ‘Bolyai Farkas’, Targu Mures and
Maria Melania Negrea, Gimnaziul ‘Europa’, Targu Mures
 

Keywords: games, teacher training, interesting activities, young learners, experiential learning


How willing and eager are teachers nowadays to participate in professional development programs? How important are they in building a successful teaching career? How often should a teacher take part in such programs and do they really help us when we are in the classroom alone with our students? These are some of the most frequent questions that we asked ourselves at the beginning of our careers. Having an eight-year experience of teaching English, we will humbly attempt to find an answer to these questions.
In Romania, many teachers are quite reluctant to participate in professional development programs, especially since they are time-consuming and the costs are much too high. However, there are teachers who consider that participating in such programs is essential in order to build a successful teaching career. As information, techniques, and methods are constantly updated and changed, our initial training alone is not enough. Professional development is about life-long learning, since there is always more to learn and new skills to attain. Nonetheless, it can help us figure out why we make certain decisions and how to handle certain critical situations while in class.
We are among those teachers who are very passionate about their jobs and we have acknowledged the benefits of taking part in teacher-training seminars, conferences, workshops, online courses, webinars, etc. Two of the best courses we have attended so far have been offered by the Embassy of The United States of America and the Ministry of Education, Research, Youth, and Sports through the professional development program English Language Fellow: Practical Techniques for English Language Teaching, held by Cynthia Yoder, Senior English Language Fellow, US Embassy, Bucharest in January 2007 and Building Our EFL Resources held by Dr. Heather McKay, Senior English Language Fellow, US Embassy, Bucharest in October-November 2009.
The strengths of these courses lie in a rich theoretical part as well as in a very practical one. At the same time, they were reinforced by a thorough observation of classroom performance. The courses dealt with a wide range of topics such as: reflective teaching, classroom management, learner-centered instruction, learning styles and how to accommodate them, classroom interactions (group work, pair work, cooperative learning), warmers and energizers, games/ songs/chants, language skills practice, language systems practice-grammar and vocabulary, best practices with mixed ability classes, the ingredients and sequencing of a balanced lesson, supplementing/ adapting/ humanizing the textbook, evaluating lesson effectiveness, assessment, giving feedback to the students, accuracy vs. fluency, error correction, materials for teaching.
While taking these courses, we once again realized how much our students need engaging activities that involve movement, interacting with their colleagues, and most of all, how much they learn by doing. So throughout that period we had been doing some research on games that focus on the latter but not only. Even though movement is essential for our students, we need to have balanced lessons with both silent and physical activities. Thus, it is essential to plan ‘settlers’ to calm the students down again after an activity which involves physical movement (Read, 1998, p. 9). In this respect we were taught to use picture dictation, matching exercises, painting and drawing. Students very much enjoy a picture dictation, moreover, after the activity has been finished, they are very eager to compare their work with the original drawing and they have a lot of fun in doing so.
Furthermore, during these courses we found out that some of the most important characteristics of young learners are curiosity, interest in what is ‘here now’, and the close connection they build up to their teachers (Lobo, 2003). Therefore, the first classes are crucial for the YL. It is very important that they like and feel highly linked to their teacher. On the other hand, teachers have to exploit that to their own advantage. During the first lessons we usually try to get to know each other, to learn our names and some important data about one another. So we should try to do that in a very attractive and enjoyable way, as it is their first contact with English. One of the games presented in the workshop dealt with this topic. In general, students are very curious to know about their teachers, and one way to get their curiosity level even higher is to tell them a few true and false sentences about oneself and let them guess which are true and which are not, by asking simple yes/no questions and by picking guesses. This is another good way of starting your lessons with a new group of students.
Games are also a very good means of creating an English speaking environment in the class from the first day. There was a debate whether to use English exclusively in class or not. We have realized how important that is and we have been trying to do that ever since, together with using realia and gestures. Still, when it comes to difficult expressions, phrases or complicated directions, teachers should consider using L1 since “it is more important to spend time doing the activity rather than explaining it” (Shin, 2006). Accordingly, we should try to use as much English as possible but at the same time, if this makes our students get frustrated for not understanding, we should give them an answer in L1 without forgetting to recast it in English (Shin, 2006).
The more diverse the learning approaches, the activities and the materials are, the more successful the learning environment is. Consequently, learners can acquire the language in a pleasant way, through engaging activities like games. Thus, they learn without even noticing it.
What is also worth mentioning is the fact that the English Language Centre of the US Department of State has been offering E-Teacher Scholarship Programs in cooperation with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to which I (Maria Negrea) applied. I successfully completed the online course Teaching English to Young Learners, held in January-March 2010.
After taking this course my perceptions and approaches to teaching English to young learners have definitely changed for the better, I have been trying to put into practice everything that is suitable to my students and I have been noticing progress as time has already passed. Teaching English to young learners (YL) is often believed by other colleagues to be very easy, I have heard them many times saying “It’s easy for you, you just go into the classroom and you play a game, sing a song…” But in fact teaching English to young learners (TEYL) is very demanding. Moreover, if you are not very good at it, then it becomes very difficult for the teacher.
During the period I have been taking this course I have tried to apply things that I read, that were said on the discussion board and it helped me improve my teaching a lot. For instance I could not conceive a lesson with 1st graders exclusively taught in English. I am still trying to do it like that, I have to admit that it is more challenging for me, but it is obviously more beneficial for the students. And they really enjoy it too. At the same time I have also cleared a hurdle in what refers to assessing. The unit on the contextualized language instruction was also really helpful for me. I realized better that students prefer doing activities which make sense to them, talk about issues connected to their everyday life. Thus I have been trying to surround students with “language to which they can relate by means of concrete experience” (Curtain and Dahlberg, 2010). As a consequence, I have started to have short, simple conversations with my YLs and I have been using stories more often in my classes lately, as they are very close to their universe.
As far as disseminating is concerned, we started doing that while we were taking the courses. We have had monthly meetings with the English teachers in the area and I have held a workshop on the topic of TEYL. We have invited our colleagues to observe some of our lessons and then explain different things done throughout the lesson as learned during these courses. We have also given some articles to our colleagues to read, discussing different topics afterwards. It was helpful to be able to talk about that, exchange opinions and share experience.
All in all, this has been a wonderful experience for us and we feel very lucky to have been chosen to participate in these courses and we hope to have the opportunity to study more on these topics or even on other ones, with the help of the Embassy of The United States of America and the Ministry of Education, Research, Youth, and Sports. The things learned during the courses are definitely very helpful for our future teaching career and that is why we think that such courses are very beneficial to young teachers, as we are forming a teaching style in the first years of teaching and it is very important to be able to have access to such information and thus starting using it at an early stage of our career, so we will get used to working like that and we will continue the same way throughout the years.
For the above mentioned reasons we are strongly convinced that in our ever changing world, professional development is crucial since life-long learning keeps us motivated while it also helps us gain confidence to overcome the obstacles we may face in the classroom. What we as teachers have acknowledged is that professional development is about improving and moving forward. Moreover, these courses taught us the importance of acquiring new skills by learning new methods and information and how to best apply them in class. Nonetheless, they once again pointed out that the best teachers must have at their disposal a set of instructional methods, strategies and approaches, which need continuous development just as content knowledge. What is more, they reinforced that a well-informed and inspired teacher will definitely influence a student’s achievement, since good teachers help create great students.

References

Curtain, Helena and Dahlberg, Carol Ann (2010). Languages and children: Making the match (4th Edition) New York: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.

Lobo, M. J. (2003). Materials in the classroom with children. Amazing Young Minds Forum: Cambridge University. Retrieved from:
http://www.eltforum.com/forum/pdfs/materials_classroom.pdf

Read, C. (1998). The challenge of teaching children. English Teaching Professional, 8-10.

Shin, J. K. (2006). Ten helpful ideas for teaching English to young learners. English Teaching Forum, 2. p. 2-7, 13. Retrieved from: http://exchanges.state.gov/englishteaching/forum/archives/docs/06-44-2-b.pdf







 

 

 Comenius Mobility. Benefits of Exploring Great Britain
 

by Simona Petruc Crihan, “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” Seconadary School, Podu Iloaiei

Keywords: Comenius grant, workshops, exploring history and English towns, travelling
It all started when a colleague of mine said that I should apply for a Comenius grant and not wait any longer. I did it, but I was denied the application last year. Luckily, this year I started writing again for my grant application and I was among all those people who were given the chance of their lives: to go for a two-weeks’ course to Gloucester, UK.
I chose the course entitled: “Motivating materials and creative activities for the secondary classroom”, organized by International Study Programmes, The Manor
Hazleton Cheltenham, UK, because I am a secondary school teacher and I simply wanted to discover something more that I can use in my classroom, with my students to challenge them to study better and to improve their English skills.
There were some other reasons why I picked this course and not others and two of my strongest were: the opportunity to attend the performance of “Twelfth Night” at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and a cultural visit to the historic city of Bath.
It was like my dreams had come true and I just didn’t want to wake up. And that is why I want to present the advantages of a Comenius course from the viewpoint of travelling experiences, exploring new towns that are related to England’s history and about leisure activities when we weren’t attending the workshops.
So, there I was at Gloucester coach station waiting for my host family to come and get me to their house which turned into my new house for the next 12 days and they were even warmer than my relatives back home. Jane and Gordon were kind, open-hearted and very friendly and being there with them I felt less homesick than I expected. They not only opened the door to their house to me but also to their hearts. And that meant a lot to me and I am really very considerate for this.
The town of Gloucester is full of history because it was founded on the remains of a Roman town, then it was very important during the Middle Ages- many dukes of Gloucester are mentioned in the chronicles and Kind Edward II was buried in the cathedral, being among the very few kings that are not buried in Westminster Abbey. I did like very much the beautiful Cathedral of Gloucester- it was breath-taking. I spent many hours admiring the decorations, the stained-glass windows, the statues and I had the blessing of listening to the choir that sang heavenly and I felt like being in peace with everyone.
I also visited Bath which is an amazing city and there I had the pleasure to go for a very nice guided tour to all the most important sites there and of course, The Roman Baths.
Stratford-upon-Avon was my top priority and everything there proved to be better even in my dreams. We started the journey with a trip to the Western Cotswolds with the villages of: Broadway, Chipping Campden- famous for the mellowed stone buildings, then Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and farm with a beautiful orchard at Shottery and least but not last the historic town of William Shakespeare.
The town still preserves the perfume of old times and the setting hasn’t changed much since Shakespeare’s time. I was deeply impressed that all the houses that belonged to Shakespeare’s family are now under the protection of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which is an independent educational charity that receives no subsidy or governmental funding and depends entirely on the income generated by the visitors or volunteers or donors. Today the parlour, hall, workshop and bedchambers in his Birthplace are furnished as they may have looked like in 1574 when the house was full of children, among them being William. Then we admired the houses and the architecture in Stratford –upon-Avon on our way to The Holy Trinity Church, where lies the tomb of William Shakespeare, his wife, his daughter and his son-in-law. We didn’t have too much time to enjoy the true magic of this wonderful town because we had to prepare for our last challenge on that day- attending the “Twelfth Night” performance in The Royal Shakespeare Theater.
As an optional tip we organized ourselves a trip to Cardiff and all our 11 members of the group joined in and we had lots of fun walking around the streets and bay of Cardiff.
Besides going on trips I was also a very keen observer of British people: the way they dress very loose and casual, their interaction with tourists in shops and pubs and their free time activities.

Now coming back to the course itself that it was worth spending 6 or 7 hours on each workshop- why? Because we met great teachers that provided us with lots of materials and shared with us a part of their experience and dedicated some time of the workshops particularly to our needs. We were given the opportunity to listen to some lectures about the educational system in Great Britain, about unknown aspects of modern life and multicultural Britain. I also met some other English teachers, participants to the course, from Spain, Italy, Germany, Lithuania, Portugal, France, Hungary, and now they have become my online friends. We promised each other to keep on touch, to develop future projects and even to pay visits and discover the beauty of their hometowns.
My advice to all of you is to apply for a Comenius grant as soon as 16 January 2013 or no later than 30 April 2013 because the current system of Comenius & Grundtvig grants will end in April 2014.
Have a look and choose any of the courses displayed for English teachers on Comenius/Grundtvig Training Database: http://ec.europa.eu/education/trainingdatabase or you can find full details of the courses organized by International Study Programmes at www.International-Study-Programmes.org.uk . Good luck!
 

 

 

 
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